The University of Maine’s Iota Nu Kappa multicultural fraternity may only be two years old, but it is already seeking to create a legacy, hosting its first UMaine’s Got Talent variety show Friday night at Hauck Auditorium.
The lively crowd had a larger-than-expected turnout, according to audience members and ushers for the event. After a few “good luck” wishes, microphone tests and an attempted slow clap, the show began. As Alejandro Velez made his way to the stage to thank and welcome the audience, it was clear that everyone knew him.
Velez started the evening with a PowerPoint presentation about the International Testicular Cancer Foundation, the recipient for that night’s donations. To emphasize the importance of the issue, Velez cited the World Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute, stressing the fact that the majority of males diagnosed with testicular cancer are between the ages of 15 and 35 years old. “Early detection is vital. . . . If you diagnose this early enough, you have a 99 percent survival rate.”
He further added that, unlike many cancer foundations, ITCF wants to help those who have recently been diagnosed. “They’re interested in the here and now,” Velez said of the foundation. According to ITCF’s website, they seek to “improve the quality of life for patients, caregivers and families who are battling and surviving testicular cancer by being a support system through problem solving and sharing information about the disease from a social and medical perspective.”
After the presentation had finished, host for the evening Felipe Rodriguez took to the stage, explaining how judging the night’s events would proceed. Winners of the variety show would be determined by judges and audience members. Fifty percent of the score would be determined by the judges; 25 percent by donations collected after each act; and the final 25 percent would be determined by the audience members, who would vote for their favorite acts on Facebook.
Nicholas Cloutier started off the night’s talent singing “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Miserables.” While this was a somber start, he quickly turned the tone around with his second piece. Taking the mic off the stand, he invited audience members to sing along as he started “Forget You” by Cee Lo Green. They did.
Next up was singer and banjo player Kathryn Roelke. She performed a song by Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, effectively turning the amplified crowd into a coffee house.
Following Roelke was Daniella Runyambo, whose strong voice gave a soulful rendition of “I’ll Stand by You.”
Rodriguez took the stage to entertain the audience during a transition. “Let’s play a game,” he proposed to an increasingly antsy crowd. After announcing several shout-outs written by audience members, he declared, “Simon says!” Behind me, I heard someone ask, “Is this real life?” It sure was.
The next act featured Ashara Slagger who performed a burlesque song and dance, “I am a Good Girl.”
Between each act, brothers of the fraternity wearing “Let’s Give the Boys a Hand” T-shirts scurried up and down the aisles with donation buckets.
Returning to a coffee-house style, Calle Jackman appeared on stage with her guitar. The transition was a bit awkward, as there was a bit of trouble finding the proper mic for the event, so she did what entertainers do and engaged the audience. “Why did the chicken cross the road?” she asked. An audience member yelled out, “He was going to KFC.” “Close,” she replied, “I was going to say Taco Bell.” Once the mic situation was relieved, she performed “A Wish” by Gregory and the Hawk.
Last to take the stage before the intermission was Elitsa Stoyneva, dressed in full Bulgarian costume. In a soft voice, she dedicated her performance to two of her friends who have been diagnosed with cancer in the past year. Her singing was an incredible contrast from her soft speaking voice, as she sang two traditional songs from Bulgaria, one from her hometown.
The quick intermission featured a thank you to Josh Hallet, who, according to Rodriguez, “put this whole thing together…and it’s his birthday!”
The second half of the show featured more groups.
The first group to hit the stage was the Skastitutes, and it didn’t take more than two or three seconds for their music to evoke high school nostalgia. They played two songs for their set: an original tune, “Late at Night,” and a ska rendition of “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies.
Next to the stage was a small group consisting of Lauren Gerrity, Jason Burns and Greg Piper. Gerrity’s vocals were accompanied by beatboxing and guitar.
A piano was rolled out for the next two performances. First up was Conner Casey, who was wearing a flat-brimmed hat with a sunflower and a red cape that appeared to be a sheet or tablecloth. As he sat down to the piano, he adjusted his harmonica and began to play, saying, “I think I wrote it. Hard to tell these days.” After the song was over, he took off the cape, revealing overalls. For his second song, he played Ray Charles’ “Hard Times.”
Second to the piano was Zachary White. As he sat down, he invited the audience to sing along, and began to play Vanessa Carlton throwback “A Thousand Miles.”
Breaking up a night of singing, Megan Collopy performed an energetic hula hoop dance. It seemed partially comparable to 21st-century baton twirling, but way more interesting. The audience was extremely enthusiastic with the performance, but they exploded when Collopy successfully moonwalked.
Next was Grace Avakian, who performed “At Last,” which she dedicated to her parents who recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary.
To finish the night, a cappella group Mainely Voices took to the stage. They first sang Matchbox Twenty’s “Real World,” followed by an animated cover of Fun.’s “Some Nights” to end the evening.
Rodriguez was prepared to entertain the audience as the votes were counted. This time, it was a game of “Gangnam Style” musical chairs, which eventually turned into a time-killing dance off.
With over-sized checks prepared, the results were read: third place went to Avakian, second to Collopy, and first place went to the Skastitutes.